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Mind the Gap

April 15, 2012

This week, Mitt Romney's former Lieutenant Governor and current adviser Kerry Healy nonchalantly acknowledged the yawning chasm separating her candidate from American women, "There's always going to be a gender gap between Republicans and Democrats." She should know. After all, she was by Mitt's side as he made - and broke - a bevy of promises to women voters during his days in Massachusetts. And as it turns out, that long list not only includes his gymnastic reversal on abortion rights and shocking betrayal of Planned Parenthood. As we now know, Mitt's beliefs that "now mom and dad both have to work" and "I want the individuals to have the dignity of work" don't apply to well off households like his own.

Seeking to capitalize on the manufactured flap over Hilary Rosen's offhand remark that Ann Romney "has actually never worked a day in her life," Mitt proclaimed that "all mothers are working mothers." As it turns out, Romney's Rule is means-tested. Put another way, on Mitt's Animal Farm, some mothers are more equal than others. As he explained during his 1994 Senate run against Ted Kennedy:

"This is a different world than it was in the 1960s when I was growing up, when you used to be able to have mom at home and dad at work. Now mom and dad both have to work."

Now, as the severely conservative and severely condescending Romney insisted in January, women who receive welfare must work outside the home, even if their children are very young:

"I wanted to increase the work requirement," said Romney. "I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, 'Well that's heartless.' And I said, 'No, no, I'm willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It'll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work."

Just not if the individual is his wife.

As Ann Romney explained in an October 1994 interview, their dignity was provided by Mitt's father George:

"Neither one of us had a job, because Mitt had enough of an investment from stock that we could sell off a little at a time.
The stock came from Mitt's father. When he took over American Motors, the stock was worth nothing. But he invested Mitt's birthday money year to year -- it wasn't much, a few thousand, but he put it into American Motors because he believed in himself. Five years later, stock that had been $6 a share was $96 and Mitt cashed it so we could live and pay for education."

$250 million dollars later, the dignified Mrs. Romney now claims their wealth can't be quantified. As she lectured voters in January:

"I understand Mitt's going to release his tax forms this week. I want to remind you where our riches are: our riches are with our families," Ann Romney said. "Our riches, you can value them, in the children we have and in the grandchildren we have. So that's where our values are and that's where our heart is -- and that's where we measure our wealth."

As Rosengate reached its crescendo last week, Ann Romney explained, "My career choice was to be a mother." She then added:

"We have to respect women in all those choices that they make."

Just not when those choices involve their own bodies and their own health. And that message to the women of America is the exact opposite of the one Mr. and Mrs. Romney sold to the women of Massachusetts.
In March, Governor Romney caused a firestorm when he casually announced, "Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that." While he later clarified that "what I want to get rid of is the federal funding of Planned Parenthood," he shouldn't have stopped there. After all, Mitt Romney wants to end all funding for Title X, the only federal program devoted to family planning. But as Ruth Marcus documented last year, that's only a small part of the health care services Title X provides for lower-income American women:

The inevitable result of eliminating Title X funding would not only be more abortions - it would also be higher bills for taxpayers footing Medicaid and welfare costs for poor children. Guttmacher found that every public dollar invested in family planning care saves $3.74 in Medicaid expenditures for pregnant women and their babies during the first year of care. Imagine the lifetime savings.
And then there is the other "important work" that Pence cited: 2.2 million Pap smears, 2.3 million breast exams, nearly 6 million tests for sexually transmitted infections.

Mitt's positions on Planned Parenthood, women's health care and reproductive rights have always depended was running for office inside or outside of liberal Massachusetts.

During his 2002 race for governor, Ann assured Massachusetts voters they need not worry about moderate Mitt protecting the right to choose:

ANN ROMNEY: I think women also recognize that they want someone who is going to manage the state well. I think they may be more nervous about him on social issues. They shouldn't be, because he's going to be just fine. But the perception is that he won't be. That's an incorrect perception.
MITT ROMNEY: So when asked will I preserve and protect a woman's right to choose, I make an unequivocal answer: yes.

(Just five years later, Ann Romney announced that Mitt "has always personally been pro-life." She added that "he did change his mind. It took courage" and claimed, "hasn't changed his position on anything except choice." So much for her claim Thursday that "we need to respect the choices that women make.")
During the '94 Senate campaign when her husband declared the death of a "dear, close family relative" from an illegal abortion inspired his formerly "unwavering" pro-choice position, Ann Romney put her money where her Mitt's mouth was. That fall of 1994, Ann and Mitt attended a Planned Parenthood event. During a time when he was trying to establish his pro-choice bona fides with liberal Massachusetts voters, Ann wrote a check for $150 to the organization. When presidential candidate Romney said in 2007 that he had "no recollection" of the fundraiser, then president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Nichols Gamble seemed surprised:

"I can understand that he might not remember the check -- it's surprising to me that he would not remember the event. His main motivation for being there was a political motivation."

For her part, Ann Romney gave away the game during a January 2008 interview in Florida (around the 3:10 mark). A clearly irked Mrs. Romney brushed off a question about the contribution to Planned Parenthood, before walking away:

"That was 14 years ago and $100. Do you really think I'd remember?"

Of course, the good people of Planned Parenthood remember not only Ann Romney's check, but Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's support for their agenda. In an April 2002 questionnaire he completed for the group, Mitt Romney put his mouth where his wife's money was :

Do you support the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade? YES
Do you support state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women? YES
In 1998 the FDA approved the first packaging of emergency contraception, also known as the "morning after pill." Emergency contraception is a high dose combination of oral contraceptives that if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, can safely prevent a pregnancy from occurring. Do you support efforts to increase access to emergency contraception? YES

Of course, that was then and this is now. And in order to win over his party's evangelical base, Mitt Romney adopted a new anti-woman agenda in his 2011 "Pro-Life Pledge":

I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.
I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services.

Now, CEO Mitt Romney shows his commitment to female voters by casually announcing that that his wife "reports to me regularly" on what women care about. Of course, during the flap five years ago over Ann's Planned Parenthood contribution, Mitt had a different view about the value of her input:

"Her positions are not terribly relevant for my campaign."

That helps explain why Romney's surrogate Kerry Healy is so fatalistic:

There is always a gender gap between women voters between the Republican and the Democratic Party. There are more women in the Democratic Party to begin with. They are Democrats and they are always going to vote Democratic. We're hoping to win a few of those over, but there's always going to be a gender gap between Republicans and Democrats.

Especially if President Romney has his way.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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